3. Rwanda: 5,000 farmers contracted to grow maize for beer (The East African)

| February 25, 2008

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The maize growing in Rwanda’s fields today may be enjoyed in its bars tomorrow.

The brewers of the country’s favourite beer recently announced plans to use locally-produced maize in its recipe. In fact, Bralirwa brewery has already contracted 5,000 farmers to grow maize.

The move comes at a time when the government is encouraging local farmers to produce more grain. And it is likely to drive up the price of maize.

Bralirwa is Rwanda’s only brewery. Though multinational beer-maker Heineken owns the majority of the company, the Rwandan government also owns a share.

Anastase Murekezi is Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources. In an unrelated announcement, he noted that local maize production is on the rise. The government says it is distributing maize seeds and fertilizer countrywide. As a result, it expects that Rwanda will import less maize from neighbouring countries this year.

For its part, Bralirwa says it chose to include local maize in its beer in response to the rising cost of ingredients, such as malt, yeast, and sugar. Most of these ingredients are imported.

Maize will now be substituted for some of the malt used in a beer called Primus.

The brewery has acknowledged that by purchasing maize for beer production, it will likely drive up the price of maize.

Local grains have long been used in traditional beer production. Now, there seems to be a trend towards large East African breweries doing the same. Major breweries in Uganda and Kenya are now using up to 80 per cent local inputs, including sorghum and barley.